My week at Camp Happy Days – kids kickin’ cancer in Charleston

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Lauralyn Jones teaches art each year at Camp Happy Days.

Lauralyn Jones teaches art each year at Camp Happy Days.

After many years of volunteering, campers can still surprise John Powers from GSK with a sneak attack.

After many years of volunteering, campers can still surprise John Powers from GSK with a sneak attack.

I love to draw and paint. As a human resources manager, you won’t be surprised to hear that art isn't listed on my job description. But every year, for the past 13 years, my company lets me spend a week revisiting my love of art while helping a bunch of kids discover their artistic talents. Not just any kids, but a really special, brave, and inspirational group of kids who are dealing with cancer – either themselves or their siblings – at Camp Happy Days in South Carolina.

At Camp Happy Days, we have to provide some indoor fun and shelter from the heat – that’s where I come in. I lead the “Painter’s Pit” where I have three volunteers, including a 19 year-old former camper. As a child, this camper had neuroblastoma and is now legally blind. She not only paints, but serves as an inspiration to the campers. The kids do many projects including helping paint special event banners, scenery for "Team Skit Night" or backdrops for the talent show. Kids are taught to paint by using common concepts such as drawing letters or numbers to form different animals or characters. The results are amazing and it’s great fun to see their creations and sense of accomplishment.

I thank my colleague, John Powers, Vaccines Sales Director, for introducing me to Camp Happy Days. He and his wife, Sandy, have volunteered for this organization for over 25 years.  Over the past ten years, John has been a counselor to three campers. He’s been able to watch them grow into young men – they will turn 16 next year, their last summer as campers. John’s hopeful that they will return in a few years as junior counselors.

What cancer takes away, Camp Happy Days gives back – lots of smiles, laughter and the pure carefree joy of being a kid – to over 1,500 children since 1982. And every year, I leave camp feeling extremely proud that GSK sponsors this camp and supports me as a volunteer. But mostly, I leave inspired by so many incredible kids, camp staff and volunteers who all come together for one special week. The amount of love, respect, support, and encouragement can be overwhelming, but it’s what keeps me coming back year after year. It’s only one week, but the experiences from Camp Happy Days stay with me all year.